Dear Individual Stressing About Life After College,
I am writing this letter to all you out there who are stressing about life after graduation to tell you that I've been in your shoes. I understand how you feel.
Actually, right now, you may be feeling very excited.
If you're like any of my many Facebook friends, you've probably graduated (or are about to.) You are happy that you're done and proud that you've made it.
Graduating from college is a great accomplishment.
Don't let anyone try to diminish the importance of that accomplishment you worked hard for. Likewise, don't rain on anyone's else's parade.
Some people will try. Believe me. It might be strangers. It might be friends. It might even be family. Just keep strong in the fact that YOU worked hard and YOU are DESERVING . (This will be a great trait and skill you should probably start working on for the rest of your life.)
I know a secret about you.
There's this voice inside of your head.
You're scared, but of course you're masking it with extreme enthusiasm -- or maybe by blasting Drake's Started from the Bottom. (That was meant to be funny. Forgive me if it isn't.)
You're stressing. Thoughts like these might be running through your head:
What's next for me? Will I live up to what everyone has in store for me? Will I be happy? Will I find my soulmate? Will I be making money? What happens if I totally screw up? I don't think I'm ready for this. I could use another year in college.
"I could use another year in college."
Yes, this will run through your head (more than likely).
As the saying goes,
"You never know what you have until it's gone."
Will my life ever be as simple as it was when I was I college?
Here's my advice to you:
Stop Stressing. Find beauty in the unknown.
Would my then college senior self been able to predict the things that I've experienced since college? Absolutely not. . Finding beauty in the unknown is actually a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. I'm someone who likes plans. I like knowing what I'm supposed to be, when, where, why, and how...and so on.
Finding beauty in the unknown means embracing what you don't know. Not having it all figured out. Most of you are in your early 20s. I doubt there's anyone who is older than us who can say they had everything all figured out at our age.
For example, I was convinced that I would spend the summer after graduation "traveling." I didn't get to travel while I was at Princeton and really wanted to see somewhere new. I had plans of seeing the world! Going somewhere foreign! But then something happened that I didn't expect.
On my birthday (May 20th), I received a LinkedIn message from a Princeton '09 alum that I met at a Career Services event earlier in the year inviting me to apply to a digital marketing internship at the agency she was working at. They were looking for someone who could start ASAP. With some hesitance, I accepted.
Whoa, DERAILMENT, I thought.
I wanted to enjoy the last "free" time I'd EVER have in my life (or so I thought.)
Well, I ended up taking the job and working at the agency for a good portion of the summer and guess what? I'M HAPPY AS HELL that I did.
Things unravel naturally.
I believe in this now.
I learned so much during those weeks.... and to think I originally had it all planned out. I made connections with cool people and learned things about digital marketing that I wouldn't have learned elsewhere.
Make a choice and go with the flow. If things go wrong, pivot. If they continue to go wrong, step back some more and do some serious analyzing, and then pivot more strategically next time.
Learn how to save money. Some of the things you will probably stress about is money. Read up on how to make a budget and all that practical stuff. Learn how to deny yourself a bit each month so that you can stack. Now, not everyone likes stacking and saving, but even if it's a little bit each month, put a little away. This will be a good practice to build on as you continue through your adult life.
People will come and go. I'm somebody that is all about commitment and relationship building. Not everyone is like this. There will be some people in your life who have no plans on staying. Frankly, they don't have to. There are some people in your life who, YES, will use you to their benefit. Hopefully, those people come and go. Never go into a relationship with the expectation that someone is indebted to you. Or, never think the relationship will always stay the way it is.
As people leave your life, new ones will enter. Sometimes these new people end up being more valuable than the old people. Remember that.
Treat the people right who are treating you right. That's very simple. Be kind to your friend who is always checking up on you. Don't take for granted the boyfriend/girlfriend who is always there to hear your nagging stories about how much you hate your job. Don't forget about mom, dad, grandma (or whoever else in your family you are very close to.) Say thank you a lot. Show appreciation. Be a giver, not a taker.
Doing too much will lead to mental overload. There was a point a few months ago where my schedule was crazy. I was working full-time, dabbling in freelance PR work, writing for several outlets, trying to make time for friends... basically I was saying YES to everyone. So while everyone was happy.... what was I? Miserable.
Focus on your happiness. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be generous or interested in the well being of others, but as the flight attendants say on the airplanes, "please put your own mask on before trying to help others put on their mask." Don't kill yourself trying to help other people when you aren't even trying to help yourself.
However, I think the biggest thing I'd want to say is this:
Don't be lazy. Nothing will be handed on plate for you. Unless you are really spoiled and people in your life love to do things for you (and hopefully you are not and they don't), you will really need to work hard these next few years. Now working hard may mean a lot of things. For me, I realized that there was SO MUCH I didn't know about what I wanted to know. That was marketing and copywriting. I spend ALOT of my time now reading up on those things. Networking. Connecting with people that can help me.
Don't complain if you're not seeing results if you aren't taking actionable steps toward anything. Sitting around and complaining without doing anything is just silly. Nobody will feel sorry for you.
Bad shit will happen. You can't escape that so stop trying to run from bad shit. You will have some bad bumps in the road. Stressing out about what they could potentially be will leave you borderline insane so just wait for them to happen. Now, on the same vein, try to eliminate the amount of STUPID SHIT you do that will lead to bad shit.
That's pretty self- explanatory. I won't expound on that.
The bad stuff that happened to you will not define you. I had some bad moments in college. Some things happened to me that I thought would never happen and I had to deal with it. If you need help dealing with things, don't be afraid to seek out that help.
Looking back, I realize that sometimes we get caught up on all the bad stuff that we go through and think that we need to carry it around as luggage in our minds and lives. We don't. We can acknowledge and give it a place in our lives, which may just end up being the past.
I think about one of my best friends who lost a parent while in college and I smile because of where she is now in her life. Her college years weren't exactly "normal," but she's someone that encourages me every day. Though she was experiencing tough times, she persevered.
That's what these next few years will be about: perseverance.
You can do it.
Don't forget about YOUR DREAMS. Don't forget about what makes you excited. The things you told yourself you always wanted to do or try. For some, this might mean thinking back to your childhood and thinking about those things that really made your head spin. Don't think about what you mother wants for you. What your professors see you doing. Really take some me-time and start cultivating those ideas about what your ideal life after graduation would look like. Don't forget about what you envision.
Your dreams probably won't come true in the near future, but I can assure you this: If you start setting some goals for yourself... if you start believing that every step you take will take you one step closer to those dreams of yours, you'll start to see life in a different way. You'll even start to experience bad things differently.
Stressing takes away from all the non-stressing you could be doing. Building up all that cortisol will harden your arteries. Seriously.
Find things that you love to do and do them. Often. I'm chuckling here, because something just popped into my mind, but I'll refrain from sharing my dirty thoughts with you guys.
I look back at my college years and realized that I spent a lot of time worrying. It's going to be really hard to convince yourself that you don't need to worry. In some ways, worrying might actually prompt you to do some things that you need to do.
Stop trying to be perfect. Trying to be perfect takes a lot of time and is something that is nearly impossible to achieve. My suggestion is to think more in terms of efficiency.
I guess the point of this letter at this point is to just say that everything will be okay. Nothing is really the end of the world (unless the world decides to end the day after you graduate).